Monday, June 22, 2009

Measuring Success

I moved boxes for her all day. She had thrown her back out. “I need to get through all this stuff by tonight!”

Total workaholic. “No time after today!”

As dusk settles like detritus over the late-summer hills of Mendocino, the female cougar rests beneath the purpling biceps of a manzanita grove.

Looking down over the camel-humped hills leading steeply into the willowed banks of the Eel River, she spots a family of five mule deer.

She was young, mid-thirties, fairly attractive and obviously well off. She spoke nonstop in high-pitched, nervous jump kicks, and apologized incessantly.

“I am so sorry to have to ask you to move that box back upstairs again!”

Feeling that old punch in the stomach, she stretches her long spine like a bow and licks once over her whiskers. She doesn’t act quickly, but instead gets slowly to her feet, and glides through the grass like an evening breeze.

Her plastic Ikea bookshelves were covered in exotic art from all around the world, and beneath the whole scene was a sticky stain of sadness.

The ears of the deer twitch uneasily as they all look around them, not knowing why that familiar rattle of doom is sounding in their chests.

Sitting proudly in a picture frame was a certificate marking some sort of achievement, dedicated in her honor, and signed by the mayor himself. In large print were the words:

“You Are Successful At Life!”

The lion is already on top of the smallest deer before they know she is coming. The blood stands out sharply against the cougar’s golden face, the deer’s golden shoulders, the earth’s golden grasses.

The entire day passed and she never once offered me a thing to eat, I had to quickly sneak off to the kitchen in between tasks for gulps of water beneath the tap.

She eats her fill, and covers the rest of the carcass with dirt and leaves, then silently walks to the river where she drinks and washes her face beneath the star-choked sky.

She cut me a check for 90 dollars, and muttered about how we didn’t get as much done as she’d hoped. I left and went for a hamburger, and she retired to the bathroom to shit up some Table Water Crackers.

October 2007
San Francisco, CA

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